Unremarkable in any other context, the boats lining up for the start of the Golden Globe Race in July were, by their presence in Les Sables-d’olonne, quite extraordinary. Heading off to circumnavigate non-stop, totally alone for close to nine months, the skippers who complete their global circuit, and even those that don’t, will have achieved a heroic feat of endurance.
But isn’t this yet another race, just with a historical quirk? I don’t believe it is. Watching the boats depart, Sir Robin Knox-johnston remarked, ‘This is bringing sailing back to where it should be, accessible to the average sailor.’ I doubt many of us are ever going to sail in these skippers’ wakes, but that’s not the point. The point is that you could at least imagine doing so.
Unlike the Vendée Globe’s giant Open 60s further down the pontoon, any proficient sailor could step onto a Golden Globe boat and know what to do. It certainly caught my imagination, and that of the thousands of spectators turning out to watch them go. The emotion of the spectacle was all the more palpable because it was easy to identify with the sailors bidding farewell to their loved ones.
Many were disappointed that an originally British event had gone abroad. It was, however, held in the right place. The organisers found that there simply wasn’t the passion to host the event in the UK, while the French embraced it with open arms, an open cheque book, and an army of eager volunteers (p20) and an enthusiastic public. So how do we spread that level of engagement on this side of the Channel? Not only for racing, but for the open horizons offered by all forms of sailing? More of this in the next issue, but we would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.